IRS faces volley of new scrutiny
June 16th, 2014
09:12 PM ET
6 months ago

IRS faces volley of new scrutiny

Washington (CNN) - A new round of scrutiny hit the IRS on Monday as senators from both parties summoned the agency’s chief to Capitol Hill, one House committee set up a new investigative hearing and another issued a subpoena for the head of the agency to appear.

This came after the IRS announced that up to two years of e-mails from former agency manager Lois Lerner were destroyed when her hard drive crashed in 2011. Lerner ran the IRS division that oversaw tax-exempt status and is a key figure in the investigation into why the agency targeted tea party and other groups. The IRS says it has worked to recover the Lerner e-mails by searching through the accounts of dozens of employees who may have corresponded with her.

But that did little to quell sharp reactions across Congress, which has been investigating the matter for over a year.

Fastest to respond was the Senate Finance Committee, whose two top leaders called IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to Capitol Hill for a late Monday meeting. He met with the two men for over an hour, but senators still left with questions and doubt.

“I’m very unsatisfied,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the committee. “I don’t know how they can explain away the loss of two years of e-mails. ... It’s starting to become very suspicious.”

“We’re pressing to get answers whether any relevant information is missing or whether we’ve gotten everything we’ve asked for,” said Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

The IRS has described the missing e-mails as dating from 2009 to mid-2011. At that point, the agency says its computer system had a strict limit for the e-mail capacity of each employee’s account. If a worker went above that capacity, they had to either move e-mails to their hard drive or delete them. When Lois Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011, the agency states, her saved e-mails were lost from her account and computer.

The IRS provided e-mails from 2011 in which Lerner asked IT support staff for help with her broken hard drive and missing e-mails. The agency says it has recovered 24,000 of those e-mails by searching the accounts of 83 other IRS employees who corresponded with Lerner.

IRS chief Koskinen said Monday that his investigators knew about the crashed computer drive in late spring.

It is not clear why the IRS waited until Friday to tell Congress.

When CNN asked, Koskinen responded with a two-fold answer, saying that 1) the IRS didn’t know when the Senate Finance Committee report was going to be finalized and 2) the IRS thought it would have at least until the end of June to go through all the missing Lerner e-mails it had found in other IRS workers’ accounts.

But those in the Senate saw the timing differently. According to two Senate aides, Hatch contacted the IRS on Friday to verify the agency had sent over all pertinent documents to the investigation. Only after that, the aides say, did the IRS notify Congress that in fact thousands of e-mails had gone missing two years ago and that the agency had been working to retrieve them.

The Senate report, which was nearly final, is now delayed indefinitely as the committee tries to determine what material is still missing.

As senators met with Koskinen in private, two House committees also investigating the IRS controversy seemed to vie for who could hold the first public questioning of the IRS chief.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan, announced that Koskinen has agreed to testify about the crashed hard drive and missing e-mails Tuesday, June 24.

Within minutes of that announcement, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, announced he had issued a subpoena for Koskinen to testify at his committee Monday night, June 23.

Koskinen said he was happy to testify and was aware of and planning to attend the Ways & Means hearing.

As for the House Oversight subpoena, “I don’t know why anybody would subpoena me,” Koskinen said. “I’ve showed up at seven hearings this spring already. If you want me for a hearing, you just call. You don’t have to subpoena me.”

Whether he attends one hearing or two next week, Koskinen faces a torrent of questions.

Both Camp and Issa said they plan to ask the IRS chief if his agency broke the law by failing to preserve e-mails.

To that, Koskinen and the IRS have said that federal law requires that only “official records” be kept permanently and that each staffer must determine which communication is “official” and which is personal or otherwise not official.

But the largest question is whether the agency purposely delayed or tried to hide any key e-mails from Congress. Koskinen points to the agency’s $10 million, 250-person hunt for Lerner’s e-mails and says the IRS wants to complete this investigation as much as anyone.


Filed under: Congress • IRS
soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. TXBiker

    Having worked on government email systems, and I know the Lois Lerner lynch mob isn't going to like to hear this, but losing these emails is perfectly plausible. Many of these departments have size limits on mail boxes. When the mail box reaches it's limits, they require the user to off-load the excessive email to their local drive. If the hard drive is lost, oh well. The reason for this is cost constraints. It's expensive to set up a system to do tape offloads, so they call this hard drive backup, which costs them nothing, equivelent to tape offloads, when actually it isn't, as we can see in this case. But the IRS is constantly starved for it's own operating budget by angry GOP congressmen, and they may in the end have themselves to blame, so I'm going to have to pass on joining the lynch mob.... I wouldn't be surprised to find out soon that the GOP gutted I/T improvements at the IRS in the last few budgets.

    June 17, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Really?

    Rudy NYC-I give u what the Dems said when they gave Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq... based on the intelligence they all saw and vote. It was wrong but at the time they based it on the intelligence then that was even confirmed by Bush and a coalition of 48 other countries. 17 UN resolution against Saddam.
    -----------------------
    Again, the only "proof" offered to members of Congress was word of mouth. The Bush administration claimed that the nature of the evidence could compromise our national security by revealing too much about the source. Members of Congress took the administration at their word, which has turned out to be a proven lie.

    June 17, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  3. justaguy

    So funny how CNN has this buried down below rather than up top where it belongs. I'm glad to know "Hot or Not" is back though.

    June 17, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    I am happy that CNN has this story on their site. Couldn't find it on the NBC, ABC, or CBS. It may be there but it is buried deep. Protecting the guilty I guess. Better watch out CNN, the IRS and Obama will be after you next if you don't get back in line and worship the regime.

    June 17, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. sparky

    "This came after the IRS announced that up to two years of e-mails from former agency manager Lois Lerner were destroyed when her hard drive crashed in 2011."

    Since when do you keep e-mails on the client side and not the server side?

    June 17, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. jerry

    the time has come to get some special prosecutors going on this…the DOJ is corrupted as is the presidency… enough.

    June 17, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. Really

    'Ppl who claim that this cannot happen simply do not understand how e-mail is archived. By DEFAULT, Outlook auto-archives e-mail every 2 weeks, and guess where it the default archive location is. It's on the local hard drive that's where it is. So, unless the defaults were changed, which is entirely believable that they were not, her e-mails were archived to her local hard drive and then lost when the hard drive crashed. Not hard to understand at all. Blame Microsoft.'

    C'mon, yes, if you are running stand alone Outlook and your are connecting to a POP server or something else then yes. When you have a corporate e-mail server, then no, it does not auto archive by default. The Gov't requires all public traded companies to have a long term e-mail retention policy. So what all the experts here are saying is the gov'ts long term e-mail retention policy is to have the e-mails copied to their local hard drive. In the event of a legal hold request, do you honestly think that the IT department of the federal govt is going to go to each individual desktop and grab the .pst file? Cause based on passed legislation of the past decade, if they did not do exactly that they would be in criminal violation. C'mon people.

    June 17, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. troy

    I am an IT networking guy, it is physically impossible to lose the emails because the PC crashed. and even if it were stolen, ALL emails are stored on multiple servers statically positioned in secure locations around the USA, and each one of those servers have a redundant back-up system.

    Even if you tried to destroy those emails you cannot.

    We in the IT field are falling down laughing at how impossible this lie is.

    June 17, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. sly

    Ha ha ha ha ha ... next we'll be asking for the Presidents Birth Certificate.

    Whatever happened to that incredibly serious controversy?

    Ho ho ho ho ho ... no wonder the GOP is at 11% approval – "Where is His Birth Certificate? Huh? Where is it?"

    June 17, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  10. carlos

    But the buffoon in chief said "not a smidgen" of corruption...

    June 17, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  11. 1776usa2016

    The emails weren't lost.

    They were recovered from the recipients.

    Relax.

    .

    June 17, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. drake mallard

    to gop you mean that when Bush was President the IRS investigated some groups? I am shocked. So how many groups was that the IRS investigated over that 8 years? and how many were denied status? And how many had to answer long forms?“

    June 17, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. troy

    TXBiker, you obviously do not know what you are talking about and you are definitely NOT an IT guy, I am and have been doing servers for the past ten years. Every single government location has its own server that every Email is redundantly backed up, so even if her computer DISAPEARED!!, all her emails are backed up on the server.
    Lets rewind a moment, if her PC crashed, all the data is still there. if her hard drive had a catastrophic failure, forensic can retrieve a huge amount of her data. This has all us IT guys laughing our butts off how stupid a lie this is.

    June 17, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. martimasters

    10 millions dollars to retrieve lost emails from persons who corresponded with Lois? You're kidding, right?

    June 17, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The IRS provided e-mails from 2011 in which Lerner asked IT support staff for help with her broken hard drive and missing e-mails. The agency says it has recovered 24,000 of those e-mails by searching the accounts of 83 other IRS employees who corresponded with Lerner."

    Just a bit of trivia pulled from the featured article.

    June 17, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. Mike

    Ever hear of backups? Somewhere all of those emails exist in another discoverable form. Just have to go get them.

    June 17, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. Dean

    Lerner's pc crashed an I am absolutely positive that the emails in question do not reside on any other server connected to the IRS or the ISP or basically any other place in the universe.
    They need to pretend that she in in the military and just court martial her and make her forego any benefits, salary and pension.

    June 17, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. Dean

    TXBiker- so what you are saying is basically it's just Bush's fault.

    June 17, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  19. RW0r1d

    I was under the misunderstanding that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure pertained as well to the US Government and that that law obligated retention for eDiscovery to approx. five years. I guess when you are the makers of the laws you can exempt yourself from respecting them?

    June 17, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. rad666

    "What—Us Worry?"

    Can't touch us.

    June 17, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  21. seangregory1965

    I thought e-mails are hosted on a server. It is, however, very convenient that the e-mails have been 'lost.'

    June 17, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  22. taxpayer

    Can Joe average use the equivalent to "the dog ate my homework" when we are tasked to supply materials to the IRS???

    June 17, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Flaminio

    That goes to show how moronic this administration is. Anyone how knows anything about email systems and their architecture behind, knows that even if you crash your computer and lose all your emails, these still reside on the email servers back on the data center and further more they are mandated by law to keep archives for a minimum of 7 years (which their compliance department was supposed enforce)
    So as you see, losing emails just because your hardware crash is not a good excuse and furthermore, how about all the other email from the other assistants which are gone lost as well, did they all have hard drive crashes at the same time? 'How convenient !
    Liberals must think we are stupid ' but the joke is on them.

    June 17, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  24. 2_indy1600

    Ah, so perception really IS reality, and no, it does not depend on what the definition "of IS is."

    June 17, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Glenn NM

    Republicans are just trying to keep this contrived scandal going, it is an election year after all.

    June 17, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
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